As he was preparing to take over full-time as Ohio State's starting middle linebacker, Raekwon McMillan received some advice in the offseason from a former Buckeyes great, one who is currently starring in the NFL at the same position.
"James Laurinaitis, I spent a little time talking to him this offseason," McMillan said Wednesday following Ohio State's third practice of fall camp. "Talking to him, just picking his mind about our defense and some of the things he did while he was in college."
Throughout his career in Columbus, Laurinaitis was the face of the Buckeyes' defense. He was a three-time All-American, and a Nagurski and Butkus Award winner. Now, Laurinaitis in a star in the NFL for the St. Louis Rams and one of the best linebackers in the league.
So what did the former Buckeye great say to McMillan, who is projected by many to have a breakout season in 2015?
“When I told [Laurinaitis] that I wanted to be as good as him one day, he looked at me and told me that he wants me to be better than him," McMillan said. "For a guy who is at the top of middle linebackers in the NFL, it’s really amazing for him to look at me and say he wants me to be better than him."
Last season as a freshman, McMillan served primarily in a back-up role to Curtis Grant at middle linebacker. He played a decent amount of snaps — McMillan recorded 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks — but the number of reps he saw decreased as the year went on.
Grant is now gone now, though, and the starting middle linebacker spot solely belongs to McMillan.
“He knows what we’re doing. He takes leadership, he takes command. He just leads by example, to be honest with you," fellow linebacker Darron Lee said. "He’s not that mouthy type of guy, he just leads by example. Everybody else follows, the young guys follow and the defense follows.”
That's the middle linebacker's job, too, to lead the defense. The tasks of getting everybody lined up, making defensive calls all falls on the shoulders of the 6-foot-2, 240-pound former five star recruit.
McMillan's duty as the middle linebacker is to be a leader out on the field. One of his personal goals is quite similar.
“My biggest goal for me is to become the captain of the defense," McMillan said. "To be out there when guys can trust me, when they can look at me when we’re in hard times, that’s one of my goals.
"One of my goals isn’t to be the best linebacker in the world, it’s together for our defense to be the best in the nation.”